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2024 Little Things Matter a Lot

The Significance of Implicit Bias, Practically & Legally
153 Daedalus 193-212 (2024).

(c) 2024 Jerry Kang
NonCommercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0) license


Skeptics point out that measures of implicit bias can only weakly predict discrimination. And it is true that under current technologies, the degree of correlation between implicit bias (for example, as measured by the Implicit Association Test) and discriminatory judgment and behavior is small to moderate. In this essay, I argue that these little effects nevertheless matter a lot, in two different senses. First, in terms of practical significance, small burdens can accumulate over time to produce a large impact in a person’s life. When these impacts are integrated not only over time but double integrated over large populations, these little things become even more practically significant. Second, in terms of legal significance, an upgraded model of discrimination that incorporates implicit bias has started to reshape antidiscrimination law. This transformation reflects a commitment to “behavioral realism”: a belief that the law should reflect more accurate models of human thinking and behavior.

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